American Honda, in association with its racing division, HPD (Honda Performance Development), announced last November that its ninth-generation Civic would be available to licensed racing teams in the car’s purest form—body-in-white. Despite the announcement made at last year’s annual SEMA gathering that put Honda fans into a frenzy and had the forums buzzing with predictable speculation, Honda began quietly selling its no-nonsense, race-only Civic last summer, with a number of approved racing teams already having taken delivery as early as July.
Bodies-in-white are nothing new. The name harkens to the stage in the automotive manufacturing process where a car’s sheet metal structure has been completed, just before it has been fitted with its engine, drivetrain, suspension, brakes, glass, trim, and interior. Incidentally, it has absolutely nothing to do with the car’s color. For race car builders, starting with a body-in-white makes perfect sense and can lead to tremendous savings—not just with the vehicle itself, but with labor costs associated with stripping a fully equipped production-ready vehicle down to its shell, especially when Honda is said to be offering its vehicle for a paltry $3,500.
Bodies-in-white are nothing new. Ford Motor Company has been offering its own iteration for years. So has General Motors, most recently and most notably of which is its ’10-and-newer Camaro that the manufacturer—in conjunction with its performance development arm, GM Performance Parts—has made available to select racing organizations for roughly $7,000. It’s a bargain, no doubt, especially when considering the number of parts that won’t be or simply cannot be used in a racing environment.
Bodies-in-white are nothing new, not even for Honda. Honda of Japan has made stripped-down body-in-white versions of its most popular cars available to racing teams throughout the country for decades. Even American Honda has distributed its share of preproduction Civics for racing purposes throughout the years. That American Honda has teamed up with its officially recognized performance partner—HPD—to do all of this now, though, well, that is indeed something entirely new.
Until now, Honda didn’t really care whether or not you knew any of this. Turns out, caring is good. Were events not in the works that were in the best interest of Honda’s performance-minded allegiance, chances are fanfare over the ’12 body-in-white Civic would be slim on Honda’s part. It isn’t, though, and this comes on the heels of further validation that an NSX replacement just might happen, that consumers just might care about a supercharged Accord more than they do a hybrid one, and that if Honda did indeed brand its own high-performance parts, people would buy them.
Despite the fact that the Civic has prevailed as among the world’s most popular sport compact racing platforms for more than 25 years, 2012 is indeed the year that all of
It doesn’t have to end with American Honda taking cues from General Motors and its preproduction shell-of-a-Camaro, though. It shouldn’t, anyways. For years, Ford Motor Company’s body-in-white Mustang program has been accompanied with niceties like race-ready, supercharged crate engines with specialty cylinder heads and performance-minded gearboxes. Shall we expect the day that high-compression K-series engines boasting forged internals and high-lift cams are crowned with their rightful OEM part numbers? Look at HPD’s latest offerings for the ’12 Civic Si announced at last year’s SEMA and such an idea doesn’t seem so farfetched. The performance development firm has announced its Honda Racing Line—its new racing performance parts program specifically for the all-new Civic. There the company will make available HPD-designed and branded engine, drivetrain, suspension, and braking upgrades tailored toward the SCCA World Challenge and Grand Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge…or wherever else you may see fit.
Perhaps the phrase “better late than never” never rang more true. Perhaps that isn’t the case at all and, despite the fact that the Civic has prevailed as among the world’s most popular sport compact racing platforms for more than 25 years, 2012 is indeed the year that all of this was destined to happen. Either way, all of this is good news. Very good news…unless you’re the guy who’d rather have the Accord hybrid.